FlixChatter Review: RADIOACTIVE (2019)

Ever since her breakout role in Gone Girl, Rosamund Pike has become an even more compelling performer who often portrays brilliant real-life heroines. A couple of years ago, I thought her performance in A Private War as fearless war-correspondence Marie Colvin. Well, she plays yet another Marie in this film, Marie Curie, the Polish-born Nobel Prize-winning scientist whose inventions changed the world.

Directed by Iranian-born French filmmaker Marjane Satrapi, the biographical drama focuses on Marie’s struggle to work as a scientist, largely due to her gender, and how she eventually prevailed to win the Nobel prize. The story is told in flashback from the time Marie was in her mid 60s (Pike in heavy makeup) and she collapsed in her Paris laboratory. Most of the story takes place in Paris when Marie was studying at University of Paris and having trouble securing the proper resources and funding for her work, that is until she meets Pierre Curie (Sam Riley). Pierre takes an immediately liking to her and offers her a partnership.

Marie and Pierre worked together and eventually they did fall in love, got married and had two children together. The film showed their relationship was a happy one initially, though of course there was always something wanting. Despite the fact that the two collaborated on their scientific research and discovery–of polonium and radium–Marie’s continually discredited for her work. Pierre was nominated for Légion d’honneur, the highest French order of merit, that he rejected for not nominating Marie. Later on, Marie was basically left out of the Nobel Prize in Physics, but Pierre insisted the two jointly share that prestigious award.

Now, while the film’s subject matter is a fascinating one, the film’s narrative style almost feels a bit stifling and lacking in energy at times. I’m not sure the surrealistic elements work in the film’s favor, though I do give the filmmaker’s points for creativity. I just  wish there’s a bit more dynamic energy and sparks that would make the film more lively, though Pike’s performance remain captivating throughout. The cinematography also often appear too grim and gloomy which adds an unnecessarily bleak atmosphere.

Though I had obviously heard of Marie Curie, I did not know anything about her life What I come away from watching this biopic is just how tough and heart-wrenching her life was. Both she and Pierre were heavily exposed to toxic elements in their years of research, which naturally affected their health. Marie initially dismissed such concerns, even after more and more people die from health complications after exposure to radium.

The gender discrimination is to be expected and the film captured those moments well, as well as the times Marie was harassed by xenophobic mobs because of her Polish origins in her later years. I have to say that the scenes in third act during World War I is quite a memorable one. Marie’s daughter Irene (Anya Taylor-Joy) has become a scientist in her own right at this point, and the two of them developed a mobile radiology units that they themselves took to the field near the front lines. Apparently back then, many soldiers’ limbs were unnecessarily amputated and this x-ray machines helped save the limbs if they in fact could be saved. Apparently Marie sacrificed her own Nobel prize winning to fund this humanitarian effort to the French, though she was again, never formally recognized for her work.

Marie Curie’s story of bravery, intellect and resilience certainly deserve cinematic treatment and Pike portrays her beautifully. Despite its flaws, I’d still regard this film as a remarkable and heartfelt tribute to a singular heroine and her scientific legacy.


Have you seen RADIOACTIVE? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: UNCLE FRANK (2020)

I had the privilege of seeing this film at Twin Cities Film Fest last October, one of the three films I saw on the big screen. I had come into it blindly, not having seen a trailer or even read in details what it’s about at all or even seen the trailer. I find that as a rarity in the age of social media where incessant promotional campaign tend to reveal too much about a film. So for this review, I shall try not to spoil too much details about the plot, and when I absolutely have to, I’ll warn you about it and hide the spoiler-y bits.

Sophia Lillis as Beth

Now, even reading its description on IMDb would reveal key details about the plot, so if you want to come into it blindly, I’d refrain from going to its IMDb page. What I can safely tell you is that the film takes place in early 1970s in South Carolina and later New York City. It’s told through the eyes of the title character Frank Bledsoe’s (Paul Bettany) teenage niece Beth (Sophia Lillis) who clearly admires his uncle and claims he’s the only one in the family who sees and appreciates her for who she is.

We first see the Bledsoe’s family at a Christmas family gathering and while everyone seems to treat Frank well, it’s apparent right away that Frank is dismissed by his dad, the family patriarch referred to as Daddy Mac. At first it’s not clear why he isn’t quite welcomed at home and my initial thought is that the family isn’t too keen that he left the South to work as a literature professor at NYU.

Paul Bettany as Uncle Frank

It’s not until 18-year-old Beth ends up going to NYU that Frank’s true identity is revealed. Again I won’t spoil that for you, but it happened at a party at Frank’s apartment where Beth showed up without being invited. The person who shows up at the door is Walid or Wally (Peter Macdissi), Frank’s roommate. He was taken aback by Beth’s presence at first, but immediately warms up to her as if he’s known about her for some time. Now, if you don’t want to know more about the plot, I suggest you stop reading.

The party itself would easily give away just who Frank really is. Spoiler alert (highlight to read) – Beth soon finds out that uncle Frank is gay and he’s been living with his lover Wally for the past 10 years. There are guests of diverse backgrounds mingling, drinking, definitely not the kind of crowds Beth was exposed to in the South. The real journey began when Frank got a call that Daddy Mac has died and he had to take a road trip from Manhattan to Creekville, SC for his funeral. College is naturally a coming-of-age moment for many teens, but this road trip and all the revelations concerning Frank, as well as the reactions stemming from that, ends up being a growing experience for both involved.

This film is a sophomore effort from award-winning writer Alan Ball (American Beauty, Six Feet Under, True Blood). He also penned the script, which apparently is partly based on his own dad’s life. I have to commend Ball’s ability to balance the drama, comedy and even tragedy aspects of the story as the film takes viewers in an emotional roller coaster. I always admire filmmakers who can tackle difficult subject matters and manage to inject humor into it without turning it into an absurd farce.  This one definitely covers tricky topics and sensitive, hot button issues, yet it’s not a downer of a movie despite some harrowing scenes.

Throughout the journey south, there are multiple flashback scenes told in stages as more and more of Frank’s past is revealed. This narrative style could’ve been really clunky and problematic, yet it works quite well here to tell the source of why Frank is so ravaged with guilt and the incident that changed his relationship with his father forever. I think the lack of subtlety is deliberate, though some of the scenes and dialogue are too on-the-nose and forced emotionally. Despite the inherent conflict between Frank and his dad, however, I appreciate the fact that Ball refrains from completely demonizing him despite the intense hurt he’s caused his own son.

The performances are definitely the film’s strong suit. Paul Bettany is quite a revelation as Frank in a committed, genuinely heart-breaking performance. His character is filled with so much sorrow and self-loathing which makes him infuriating and even hard to love, but Bettany tackles the role with a nuanced emotional honesty. Peter Macdissi is simply delightful here in such a warm, lively performance. The stark contrast between the eternal-optimist Wally and the often despondent Frank make for some comic-relief moments that would make you laugh and cry. Sophia Lillis is terrific as Beth and I think the fact that the film is often seen through her perspective makes the story more relatable. The supporting cast are filled with talented character actors such as Margo Martindale, Steve Zahn, Stephen Root, Judy Greer, and Lois Smith. I rarely see Root play such an unsympathetic character but he’s quite believable here as the insensitive patriarch.

I think the biggest issue I have with this film is that at times it feels like an ‘agenda film’ that tries to blatantly push certain values to the audience. Some of the familial scenes and Frank’s alcoholism feel a tad too maudlin and ham-fisted. Overall though, it’s a compelling and emotional drama that would definitely spark interesting conversations with people after you watch it. Definitely a perfect release around Thanksgiving, even if this year people might have to spend family gatherings virtually.


Have you seen UNCLE FRANK? Well, what did you think?

Trailers Spotlight: Radioactive + Mr. Jones

Hello everyone! I know the mood is grim as the world is grappling with the Coronavirus outbreak. As disappointing as seeing films we’re anticipating getting canceled, when put into perspective, it’s a small inconvenience for us filmgoers… though of course my heart goes out to filmmakers/festival organizers/artists and  businesses affected by this pandemic.

But hey, they can’t stop me from still being excited about films that would get to our screens eventually… and both of these are based on real historical figures AND directed by female filmmakers.

RADIOACTIVE

The first film I’m highlighting here is actually pretty timely and relevant given Marie Curie’s instrumental discovery in cancer treatment.

A story of the scientific and romantic passions of Marie Sklodowska-Curie (Polish scientist) and Pierre Curie, and the reverberation of their discoveries throughout the 20th century.

I’m immediately sold on this based on the two leads, Rosamund Pike and Sam Riley (who’s so criminally underrated!) as Marie and Pierre Curie. I love the role choices Pike continues to do, she’s definitely got the chops to play brave, headstrong, intelligent women in male-dominated fields. She was terrific in A Private War, interestingly it’s also based on a real life war photographer that’s also named Marie, Marie Colvin to be exact. I’m so glad to see Sam Riley in a prominent role (it breaks my heart to see him wasted as a silly raven in those Maleficent movies!!).

Per IMDb, this film is based on the graphic novel Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout by Lauren Redniss. It’s Iranian director Marjane Satrapi‘s first film based on a graphic novel that she didn’t write herself. Two of her films Persepolis and Chicken with Plums are both based on her own graphic novels. That fact alone made this film all the more intriguing!

I don’t know much about Marie Curie’s life aside from her legacy in science and being the first female scientist to win a Noble Prize in Physics (albeit a shared prize with her husband), and later in 1911 she won another Nobel Prize in Chemistry. I can’t wait to see this one and hopefully it’ll arrive in Amazon Prime soon as Amazon Studios has bought the distribution rights.


MR. JONES

Here’s another based-on-a-true-story about a topic I’m not familiar with. Though there are numerous films about WWII and the Holocaust, I don’t think I’ve seen a film about the Holodomor genocide, a man-made famine in Soviet Ukraine in 1932- 1933 that killed millions of Ukrainians (per Wiki).

Agnieszka Holland’s thriller, set on the eve of WWII, sees Hitler’s rise to power and Stalin’s Soviet propaganda machine pushing their “utopia” to the Western world. Meanwhile an ambitious young journalist, Gareth Jones (James Norton) travels to Moscow to uncover the truth behind the propaganda, but then gets a tip that could expose an international conspiracy, one that could cost him and his informant their lives. Jones goes on a life-or-death journey to uncover the truth behind the façade that would later inspire George Orwell’s seminal book Animal Farm.

 

 

I’m not familiar with Polish director Agnieszka Holland but she has quite an extensive resume in film and TV, including acclaimed series such as House of Cards, The Killing, etc. I’m particularly intrigued by the fact that its screenwriter, Andrea Chalupa, has been inspired by her own grandfather who’s from eastern Ukraine to write about Stalin’s genocidal famine (per Guardian‘s rave review). So there’s definitely something deeply personal in the part of the filmmakers.

I’ve been a longtime admirer of British actor James Norton for some time, I’m glad to see him in the lead role! He’s a terrific actor and looks pretty convincing as an idealistic journalist. Nice to Vanessa Kirby in a prominent role here as well. As a big fan of journalism movies, especially those based on real-life events, I’m definitely looking forward to seeing this.


What do you think of these two trailers?

FlixChatter Review – Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019)

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil was at once my most anticipated and most dreaded film of this year. Disney has a long history of over saturating the market with quickly produced sequels, prequels and even midquels of films that have been successful. These sloppily made seconds have left me with a bad taste and a severe distrust of Disney sequels.

I loved the first Maleficent and feel rather protective of it. In a pre-me too and pre-times up world, Maleficent brought us face to face with the disturbing reality of our culture and wrapped it up in a way that would be understandable and affecting to young children. The violence during the wing scene is as confronting as a Brothers Grimm tale and just as truthful, exploring the ideas of betrayal and assault, and the subsequent psychological toll, as well as the ideas of consent, choice and ownership over one’s body. Although it was widely panned as an over produced mess, it addressed some heavy issues of our time and for that reason is still very valuable. Would the sequel do the same?

Directed by Norwegian filmmaker Joachim Rønning, Mistress of Evil has an amazing cast of Angelina Jolie and Elle Fanning, with Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert Lindsay playing Phillip’s parents with Chiwetel Ejiofor, Ed Skrein, and Sam Riley in supporting roles. Distractingly, Brenton Thwaites as Prince Phillip has been replaced by Harris Dickinson due to scheduling conflicts.

Like its predecessor, this film is a bit of a jumbled mess. It starts off with with Philip proposing to Aurora and we are dragged into rom-com inspired dinner scene. In a painful exchange Aurora asks Maleficent to cover her horns and lessen parts of herself that make people uncomfortable. Although watching Maleficent practice her smile and tone is meant to be comedic, it is also a very pointed assimilation. Aurora and Maleficent are expected to change in order to fit in.

Despite her best efforts to be a cordial guest, Maleficent is as impulsive and quick tempered as ever. Queen Ingrith gets the fairy queen so upset she flies the castle, ultimately seeks refuge in a hidden community of dark Fey. The last of their people, they come from all over the world.

Like Maleficent, they have been cast out and marginalized. Although overreaching, Disney is transparent in their intention that the Fey are meant to collectively represent all marginalized groups where Aurora, Phillip, Ingrith and other “humans” in the film are meant to symbolize  western colonial/imperialists. A narrative that is all too easily resolved by the end.

It is here with the Fey that a new side of Maleficent comes to light. A more introspective, open and vulnerable character emerges. She often sits alone, her wings engulfing her in a protective cloak; standing as a champion of morality while the world would yet again cast her as the villain.

Ejiofor as one of the Dark Fey leaders

This film follows the first, challenging the idea that women must be at odds with one another and can share deeply intimate bonds. Maleficent and Aurora relationship breaks boundaries and is constantly under attack by patriarchal forces hiding in a legend (Sleeping Beauty) that is also a lie.

At the same time, back at the castle, King John mysteriously falls ill and in reaction, to their king’s sudden demise, the entire and kingdom is armed and ready to wipe out the fairy kind. SPOILER ALERT [highlight to read] This genocide is particularly frightening to behold as one watches a room full of creatures ravaged by a poisonous powder. Thus begins the war movie phase of our film that culminates in a completely unnecessary epic CGI-rich battle (similar to those found in Marvel movies.

The socio-political themes in Maleficent are a bit mature for this film to address, which, unsurprisingly, doesn’t make the film fit together well. Nevertheless, I think it raises important issues and creates a space to safely have discussions with children. I really appreciated that Philip and his fathers are cast as allies and work to fight the stigma and spread love and understanding. I think the representation of their relationship, love and accountability as males and leaders in their community in itself is a huge paradigm shift in cinematic feminism.

– Review by Jessie Zumeta


Have you seen Maleficent: Mistress of Evil? Well, what did you think? 

Musings on TV Series Recently Watched: Bodyguard & SS-GB

HAPPY NEW YEAR! (I think you can still say that until at least mid January, right?)

It’s a relatively mellow weekend for me and I realize I haven’t actually written a review in 2019 yet but I’ve been bingeing a ton of shows in the past month or so. I’ve blogged about Daredevil Season 3 in December, which I absolutely love!

So here’s my quick thoughts on these four series I saw in the past couple of months…

BODYGUARD (2018)

Right after Daredevil Season 3, my hubby and I actually binged on BBC’s Bodyguard which is the perfect show to watch after ending on such a fantastic series!

Police Sergeant David Budd, a heroic British Army war veteran suffering from PTSD, who is now working as a specialist protection officer for the Royalty and Specialist Protection Branch of London’s Metropolitan Police Service. He is assigned to protect the ambitious Home Secretary Julia Montague, whose politics stand for everything he despises.

Right from the first episode where Budd foils a female suicide bomber’s plot to blow up the train he’s riding on, the intensity of the show never lets up. I love that right away we see a flawed protagonist, as Budd is dealing with PTSD and is separated from his wife. Richard Madden just won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Budd and it’s a well-deserved win, perhaps a high in his relatively-young career. Yes I think there ought to be a category for ‘Best Jawline on TV’ as Budd oozes so much sex appeal even just standing there guarding his client (those secret agent earpiece never looked so sexy on a man).

Also kudos to Keeley Hawes as the conservative MP Julia Montague, torn between her high-profile political career and her undeniable attraction to Budd. Boy, the chemistry between these two is quite scorching!

Yet the series smartly plays on the ‘opposites attract’ theme and able to keep the tension high from one episode to the next, making this one of the most intriguing and addictive psychological thriller. I think the political plot is pretty absorbing, but it’s the character-driven storyline, portrayed wonderfully by the key cast, that makes this such a satisfying show to watch. Bring on season 2!!

 

P.S. I knew that as soon as I saw Madden on this show he’d go on to be the frontrunner for the next Bond. Heck, why not?? He’s definitely got the looks and can balance the sex appeal + grit for the role. Plus, I’d love to see another sexy Scotsman as 007!


SS-GB (2017)

Speaking of James Bond, SS-GB is written by British screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, who co-wrote the six James Bond films from The World Is Not Enough to Spectre.

Set in a 1941 alternative timeline in which the United Kingdom is occupied by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. Detective Superintendent Douglas Archer, of the London’s Metropolitan Police is called in to investigate a murder in a flat in Shepherd Market.

The series is based on Len Deighton‘s novel of the same name, which was a pretty intriguing read despite being overly too-detailed for my liking. I always love alternative universe, and this series share major similarities with Amazon’s Man In The High Castle except instead of US, it’s set in Britain. I’m also a huge fan of Sam Riley who I think is an underrated actor, so I’m convinced I’d LOVE this series.

Alas, despite its gripping premise, there’s something so lackluster in the way the show is written and directed (by German director Philipp Kadelbach). Yes I know London is mostly grey and perhaps even murky, but must everything be so drab and dour? And the pacing just lacks energy. At first I was intrigued by its quiet intensity and smoky atmosphere (literally, as Archer lights a cigarette every few seconds!), but after a while it just feels too sluggish with only a handful memorable moments that are too few and far between. Now, I love Riley’s gorgeous profile, but I feel like the close-up shots of him are way too indulgent that it starts to look like a photoshoots for Burberry coats and Fedora.

I expect a lot from the writers of Bond movies, but then again they’ve made duds like Quantum of Solace and Spectre. I have to say that the production design and set pieces made for a convincing look of alternative Britain under Nazi occupation, and everyone looked appropriately grim. Yet there’s no sense of real urgency to the whole thing, and there’s few heart-wrenching moments that make you care for the characters. I do like James Cosmo as Detective Sergeant Harry Woods, Archer’s friend and colleague, just wish there were more memorable scenes of these two.

My least favorite character is Barbara Barga, an American reporter played by Kate Bosworth. I think she is a bit miscast here, not to mention lacking chemistry with Riley. I think she’s actually a tad more convincing as Lois Lane in Superman Returns, though a far cry from the spunky Margot Kidder in the role. I was quite intrigued by Standartenführer Oskar Huth (Lars Eidinger), an SS officer newly-arrived in London who initially made Archer’s life a living hell. Eidinger is a brilliant actor that has some memorable moments, but I think he’s far more interesting in the book. The same with the entire series, I find Deighton’s novel far more engrossing by a long shot. Ultimately it’s a thriller that lacking any real thrills, which is a shame considering the talents involved and promising source material. That said, if you like these types of alternative WWII stories, it’s still worth renting.

 

 

P.S. Given the Bond connection, at one point people were talking about Sam Riley as a possible candidate for the next 007. Hey, I’d be down for that. At this point though, I think Madden certainly has more edge to play the role.


Have you seen either one of these series? I’d love to hear what you think!

Spotlight on BBC One’s miniseries SS-GB + Interview with actor Maximilian Dirr

ssgb_bbcone

This past Sunday, BBC One finally aired one of my most anticipated series (well it’s a 5-part miniseries) starring my fave Yorkshireman Sam Riley. I’ve mentioned the project several times, including here and here.

Naturally it’ll make you think of Amazon’s Man in the High Castle but set in London. Based on the 1978 novel by Len Deighton, SS-GB is a dystopian thriller set in an alternative 1940s London, where the Germans have won the Battle of Britain, and the capital is under Nazi occupation. Sam Riley stars as Douglas Archer, a Scotland Yard detective who’s torn between co-operating with the SS or joining the resistance. He becomes embroiled in a sinister underworld while investigating what appears to be a simple black-market murder.

SSGB_BBCminiseries

Joining Riley is Kate Bosworth, as American journalist Barbara Barga, who finds herself linked to the case Archer is working on. SS-GB is written by James Bond movie writers Robert Wade and Neal Purvis, and other cast members include Jason Flemyng, James Cosmo, Aneurin Barnard, Maeve Dermody.


FCInterviewBanner

Well, recently I got to chat with one of SS-GB’s supporting cast member Maximilian Dirr, a Munich-born actor who spent his childhood in both Germany and Italy, speaking both languages fluently. Check out my interview with the talented International actor on his work on SS-GB, as well as his next project in The Crown season 2.

maximiliandirr

Q: It seems that you have a stage background following your studies at National Theatre Academy, but you’ve been doing various TV and film work. Which medium do you prefer and most comfortable with?

I’ve started working on the stage very early so I’m more comfortable with it but in the last years I made many experiences also on TV and movies. The languages are very different and I think both can learn from each other. At the moment I’m working more on film and I must admit that I really love it.

Q: What’s your first film role and how did you get cast in that project?

My first film role and experience was a short film in Genua. I was studying at the National Theater Academy and a casting director came to cast this short film. I had a lot of fun during the audition and they chose me for an northern Italian guy. From there on I definitely knew that I wanted to do more film projects.

Q: What was your role in The Best Offer and how was it working with Geoffrey Rush?

In The Best Offer (directed by Cinema Paradiso‘s Giuseppe Tornatore) I played an assistant of Geoffrey Rush and it was wonderful working with him. Even only from watching him you can learn so many things. It was also one of my first roles in a feature film.

Q: Now, as for SS-GB, could you tell us a bit about your role in that BBC miniseries? You said you had a scene with Sam Riley, can you tell us a bit about how your filming day went and your experience working with him?

In SS-GB I´m a Patrol Commander. I have a very nice scene with Sam Riley where I threatened him because he is with a girl who doesn’t have a passport with her. We had a lot of fun playing this scene also because at one point he also had to speak german and he wondered how much you can hear his accent. Sam has a very nice British accent when he speaks German.

ssgb_maximiliandirr
Maximilian in a still from SS-GB

Q: It’s such a bummer that The Vatican pilot didn’t get picked up as I’m a big fan of that cast and it looks like an intriguing series. How was it working with Ridley Scott and/or any of the cast members?

Yes, it’s a bummer that the series didn’t get picked up. I had a lovely part in it and played a swiss guard who was very close to the Pope played by Bruno Ganz. My part would have been very big in the series as I was the right hand of the antagonist. But sometimes when one door closes another one opens. So who knows what´s up next. Working with Ridley was awesome. He trusts his actors very much and respects them. It was my most amazing experience until now. I met great actors and lovely people.

Q: How difficult is it to work with German/ Italy/ English productions? There must be quite a different process for each country as well as the inherent cultural distinctions. How do you manage to overcome some of the challenges?

I love to work on the international market so it’s a pleasure for me coming to shoot in London or wherever. Having said that, of course the process in every country is very different. To be honest with you I prefer the English/American Film market and also the German Films. I have the impression that they risk more. I’m based in Berlin and Rome, and travel a lot for work. Nowadays you make many self-tapes so it’s not so important where you stay. You have to be flexible.

Q: What’s next for you? Feel free to elaborate about your future projects.

Last Summer I completed a feature film called Maria Mafiosi directed by Jule Ronstedt. It’s a German comedy about the Italian mafia and I have a very funny role. I also just finished shooting for The Crown season 2, directed by Stephen Daldry. I’ve a nice small part in one episode. Recently I’ve also finished an international feature film called Sobibor directed by Russian filmmaker Andrey Malyukov where I’m in the main cast. We shot in Lithuania and the film is about the escape from the Camp Sobibor. A true story.

sobiborfilm

Next week I’ll start shooting in a leading role for an episode of Non Uccidere for Rai/Netflix. Also many different films will be released soon so we’ll see what’s next.

THANK YOU Maximilian for chatting with me!


Belated Birthday Tribute to Sam Riley

sambdaytribute

I can’t believe I missed my darling Sam’s birthday yesterday!! My favorite actor turned 37 on January 8… and since he made his breakthrough debut in Control in 2007, he doesn’t seem to have aged a day!

He was born on January 8, 1980 in Leeds, West Yorkshire, England. I love his Yorkshire accent, spoken with his signature husky voice. He’s a chain smoker which likely contributes to that… and he’s got that devil-may-care attitude paired with self-deprecating wit that’s so irresistible!

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Oh Sam Riley… how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

Yes I know the word ‘underrated’ is not a popular word to use right now, but I really do think Sam is grossly under-appreciated as for whatever reason, he’s simply hasn’t gotten as much work as his fellow Brits. Maybe because he lives in Berlin, away from Tinsel Town or even the UK’s movie scene in London. And he’s a happily-married man, he’s been married to Romanian/German actress Alexandra Maria Lara for 8 years (a lifetime by Hollywood standards) and has a young boy together.

sam_alex_freefirepremiere
Sam w/ Alexandra on the premiere of Free Fire, Fall 2016 – photo courtesy of SamRiley.org

They met on the set of Control, which is kind of a fairy tale romance in itself, and they worked together again in Suite Francaise in 2014.  Look at these two, such a gorgeous couple!!

I was literally hyperventilating last week when I saw BBC ONE’s preview featuring SS-GB … can’t wait to get my copy of the February edition of EMPIRE magazine. Lookie here, Sam in a glorious spread as a Scotland Yard detective, decked in a dapper suit and fedora? YES PLEASE!!

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Courtesy of @CarryOnScarlett tweet

I’m also super excited to see Sam in Free Fire! I’ve posted the first trailer here, which looks like a hoot w/ a terrific cast! So there are at least two of Sam’s work I’m looking forward to in Spring, hopefully more to come later in the year.


Photos courtesy of AdoroCinema

Well, I did a Sam Riley marathon last year which made me appreciate him even more as an actor. He’s so self-deprecating that he often says in interviews that they only hire him ‘to blow smoke rings and cry’ as his debut role as Ian Curtis is a forlorn, suicidal tortured soul who smokes like a chimney. But clearly he’s more versatile than that, having played a psychopath (Brighton Rock), Beat Generation pioneer Jack Kerouac (On The Road), a naval vampire (Byzantium), an Austrian cowboy (The Dark Valley), a man bird (Maleficent), a French farmer (Suite Française), and of course, Colonel Darcy (Pride + Prejudice + Zombies)… the role I fell head over heels in love with.

So in my tribute to the phenomenal actor who I think should get more leading roles… here are five key roles that will forever mark me as a Sam Riley fan.

CONTROL (2007)

A profile of Ian Curtis, the enigmatic singer of Joy Division whose personal, professional, and romantic troubles led him to commit suicide at the age of 23.

sam_control

Since January 8th was also the birthday of rock icon David Bowie, it’s only natural I include THIS very scene from Sam’s debut role in a feature film. It’s been a decade since that film came out and I think it’s still regarded as one of the greatest, most poignant rock biopic ever made. Sam’s devastating performance doesn’t just capture Ian as a musical genius, but he captured the enigma and inner pain of the young man, who’s dealing with epilepsy and depression as his band gained fame beyond his control.

On the Road (2012)

Young writer Sal Paradise has his life shaken by the arrival of free-spirited Dean Moriarty and his girl, Marylou. As they travel across the country, they encounter a mix of people who each impact their journey indelibly.

sam_ontheroad

Sam once again portrays a real-life persona, as his character Sal is basically Jack Kerouac. He sports an effortless American accent as a quiet, reflective writer observing his wild and carefree friend Dean. He works well with Garrett Hedlund and Kristen Stewart, who at the time was at the height of Twilight’s mass hysteria. He’s the kind of actors who can disappear into his roles, he has an earthy every-man quality about him, yet he makes even the most mundane activity like typing or just scribbling in a notepad seems so darn sexy.

 

Byzantium (2013)

sam_byzantium

Residents of a coastal town learn, with deathly consequences, the secret shared by the two mysterious women who have sought shelter at a local resort.

Sam didn’t have a big part in this film but his role of Darvell is an important one to the story. Like the rest of the cast, the actors portray their roles in two separate timelines centuries apart. I’ve done a full review of it here, it’s quite a mesmerizing film by Neil Jordan… eerie, ethereal and mysteriously romantic. Wish I could find the exact clip, but I love all the scenes between Sam and Gemma Arterton. It’d be cool to see them do a film together again one day.

The Dark Valley (2014)

Through a hidden path a lone rider reaches a little town high up in the Alpes. Nobody knows where the stranger comes from, nor what he wants there. But everyone knows that they don’t want him to stay.

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This is the film I tell everyone to see if they’ve only seen Sam in Control. It’s an excellent Schnitzel Western (read my full review) shot entirely in the Austria Alps where the characters are Austrian/German except for Sam. He learned German when he married his wife, and to me he sounds very much believable as a taciturn, lone-ranger type who exacts vengeance on a group of townsfolk in a meticulously-calculated way. I always love actors who could convey a lot of emotions with his eyes and facial expressions alone, and Sam certainly got to do that here, whilst also being a bad-ass cowboy at the same time!

Check out my Music and Cinematography appreciation for this film here.

Pride + Prejudice + Zombies (2016)

Five sisters in 19th century England must cope with the pressures to marry while protecting themselves from a growing population of zombies.

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Well, THIS is the role that got me to notice Sam, which is a major reason why PPZ is on my top 10 list of the first half of 2016. Though I’m a huge period drama fan, for some reason I’ve never been into Mr. Darcy. Give me Captain Wentworth or Colonel Brandon any day over Darcy, but that is until Sam’s COLONEL DARCY came along. From the moment Lizzy saw him arriving at the ball (beginning at 01:48 in the clip below) I was a goner!

Then of course there’s the initially-awkward proposal scene that ends in a glorious, sexually-charged battle between the two… woo wee… THIS is the kind of Darcy I’ve ever hyperventilated over. The chemistry between him and Lily James is off the charts!

Some might say Sam isn’t as dastardly handsome as Colin Firth (which I beg to differ), but he certainly imbued his Darcy character with an extra dose of badassery without sacrificing his romantic side. In fact, in his second proposal scene, he’s perfectly swoon-worthy!

Favorite Sam Interviews

Well I always say that I can’t fall for any actor who lacks personality… no matter how good looking *cough* Henry Cavill *cough* But Sam’s interviews are a hoot, they’re almost as entertaining as watching him act.

His voice is music to my ear too, and he’s just as entertaining to listen to in a podcast interview!


I literally could go on and on in this post about Sam… but I better wrap it up and post this. I hope you learned a bit more about the talented actor, and hopefully check out more of his work!


What film(s) have you seen Sam Riley in?